Florida law allows the state to charge people with murder, even if they were not the direct cause of the death. So, if someone is committing a felony at the time a homicide occurs, that person can be charged with what is called “felony murder.” A prime example surfaced last week in connection with the February death of Clay County Detective David White, who was shot and killed during a Middleburg drug raid, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. And State Attorney Angela Corey left no potential charge on the table – charging all four people in the home with murder, even a 16-year-old boy living in the home with his mother. White was shot and killed by Ted Tilley, who was then shot by police as he tried to escape the home. Another Clay County detective was shot in the arm and survived the attack. All three adults in the house are charged with first-degree murder in White’s death, second-degree murder in Tilley’s death and three counts of attempted second-degree murder for shots Tilley fired at other deputies and trafficking methamphetamine. The 16-year-old was charged with third-degree felony murder in White’s death and possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell. Tilley and the adults in the home were accused of running a meth lab out of the vacant house they did not have permission to occupy, according to the newspaper. Police, acting on a tip from the owner, went to check it out. The knocks on the door went unanswered, and when police went inside, Tilley met them with gunfire.
Prosecutors are hanging the felony murder on the meth lab, using the Clay County drug trafficking felony as the reason to charge the occupants in connection with White’s death. The state will have to prove all three adults were involved in the drug operation if they want the murder charges to stick. If there’s no felony, there cannot be a felony murder charge. The same holds true with the 16-year-old. He was found with drugs on him and is charged with possession with intent to sell. Police will have to show that he intended to sell the drugs that he possessed. The state charged about as high as it could on this case – not a surprise in a case that outraged the community to see a law enforcement officer with a young family killed by a drug dealer. The case will be interesting to watch, to see how many of the charges stick.
It’s impossible to know how much the state knows about the meth operation inside the home. They haven’t released many details, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have them. But if police don’t have them yet, expect the state to start wheeling and dealing with the co-defendants to start ratting each other out. Suspects tend to talk a little more with a murder charge hanging above them. Don’t think the state doesn’t know that. Our Clay County criminal defense attorney has been involved in dozens of cases with multiple defendants and knows the tactics the state uses to try to open up its case. If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Middleburg or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Clay County Criminal Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.